The External Call

When we look at Scripture there are two kinds of calls: the external call (universal /resistible), and the internal call (limited / effectual).

Today I’ll describe the external call. This is addressed to all, “To you, O men, I call; and my cry is to the children of man” (Prov. 8:4). Christ calls all mankind to repentance, faith and holiness. As Michael Horton puts it, “Scripture proclaims the gospel to everyone. In this outward call, Christ delivers Himself to all as the only Savior. Yet only when the Spirit inwardly and effectually draws sinners to Christ do they actually receive the gift announced to them in the gospel.”

Jesus states, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). This speaks of a call much wider than the elect. It is addressed to many, to millions across the world, across every age. It is the call of the gospel: repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. The prophet Isaiah says, “Turn to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is no one else” (Isa. 45:22). Revelation also speaks of this when it ends with, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17). 

The Holy Spirit says to all, come and drink of salvation. This first call is the universal call of the gospel from God through men to every human being to come for salvation. Because this call it is external only, it may be resisted and refused. For example Acts 7:51 “You stiffed necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 also, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ and Him crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” When Paul preached he found that some of his hearers accepted and some rejected his message. It is only through the Spirit that makes the gospel irresistible.

The great commission demands we proclaim the gospel. The gospel call is universal but it is resistible until the power of the Holy Spirit makes it Irresistible. The Holy Spirit is what makes it sweet. To be frank there is nothing we can contribute that is effectual. God is the author and He has the power, so He gets the glory always. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). 

We may get discouraged and impatient not seeing the fruit of faithfully proclaiming the Gospel to our friends and family, but it shouldn’t make us ashamed. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17). 
It should give us encouragement and passion to proclaim it even more knowing God is the one to make it effective. 

“Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.” (The Canons of Dort, Head of Doctrine 2, article 5)

On my next blog I’ll be looking at the internal call, that is limited but effectual.

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Do We Really Believe in the Bible?

While many of us may have heard this question from someone who doesn’t believe in God or at least not the one presented in Scripture, it is a bit different when it comes from a Christian.

For many in evangelical Christianity this is an argument that has been settled since the mid-twentieth century, and in the SBC it was met by a landslide victory in the 1980’s that solidified the foundation of our faith in the Christ of Scripture. Now when we use the word ‘believe’ we are not talking about salvation, but as the apostle Paul says to Timothy “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-16).

So why has this discussion come back up again? In the last few weeks a prominent Pastor has spoken in 2 different forums and in both case exposed a belief that the Scriptures are a stumbling block to non-believers and as us such we should make them less important to our conversations with them. Instead of focusing on what Scripture says we need to only focus on what Jesus says and making a historical case for His resurrection…in the end is not the Bible that saves anyone it is faith in a resurrected Savior.

To this I would agree, that we’re saved through the work of the Spirit in us leading us to repentance and faith in the one true God, and this faith is not placed in ourselves but in the work of Jesus the Christ who came to earth in the time of Caesar Augustus and was crucified under the governance of Pontius Pilot in Caesarea. But who is this Christ, not who is Jesus, who is Christ? Apart from the rest of Scripture the title means little or nothing. Apart from a belief in the Old Testament prophecies, the covenants handed down from Adam to David, the words of Isaiah of one who would suffer so that we may live, what is it that our belief is founded in?

Now I could spend a lot of time giving an apologetic on the reason we believe the Bible, but that is not my goal today. My goal is to point out a simple flaw in the whole realm of thought that we can somehow jettison the Scriptures for the sake of evangelism.

For those who have read my first two post here and here, the final call of Christ is an important one, but one that encouraged the disciples not to hide from the Scriptures but to embrace them. In Luke 24 while on the road to Emmaus Jesus doesn’t just talk to these disciples about all the cool things that He did on earth and how they should put their faith in Him because of those things. No, He points back to the Old Testament and walked them through how this Jesus who they followed had to be the Messiah because all of Scripture pointed to this moment. He was the fulfillment of all that went before. They were talking to the Son of God and He wanted them to see how He was the fulfillment of scripture, not for them to abandon Scripture. When He appears to the rest of His disciples at the end of the chapter we see that Jesus opens their minds to understand the Scriptures in light of Himself.

So in Jesus’ own words the Scripture must be true and valid, for if they are not then how can we trust that He is the promised one. How could Peter preach in Acts 2 that the day’s prophesized by Joel were coming to pass? The teachings and work of Christ mean little if we do not have the Old Testament, without them we cannot fully understand or appreciate the Christ,. We cannot fully appreciate the long suffering work of God. We cannot fully grasp that God is working all things to His end, in His time table, and that He will bring these things to pass.

Clearly, the Scriptures are essential for our full understanding of God and His Christ, Jesus.

Now then the question will arise ‘Are they necessary for salvation?’ And to that I would ask ‘What are they being saved to?’ The first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are a look into the message he came to proclaim: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

What is so interesting is the Gospel we are to believe in is based on the reality of two preceding things, 1) the time is fulfilled, and 2) the Kingdom of God is at hand. It is out of these two things we are called to repent and believe. We don’t repent and believe because we want a ‘better life’ or because we want to feel better about ourselves. We repent and believe because of the conviction of sin and the reality that the time has come and the plan of God is fulfilled in His Son the Christ, who is the foundation of the message Jesus is proclaiming. Our faith is deeper than a prayer, it is more than a moment, it is a life with Jesus the Christ the Son of God who was promised from Genesis 3:15, who visited Joshua before Jericho, who stood beside the faithful in Babylon, and who is the suffering servant portrayed in the book of Isaiah.

So while we would agree the Bible doesn’t save anyone (only God can do that, only the Spirit at work can change a heart of stone to the heart of flesh) we cannot agree that the Old Testament is not a very important part of the Christian faith. It teaches us and points us to the only promised one of God. By it Phillip leads an Ethiopian eunuch to an understanding of Jesus as the one promised in Isaiah 53. By it Stephen makes his defense for his faith before the Jewish religious leaders.

For some this brief article will just seem like semantics, to others it will seem like nit picking, to some maybe it will be another reminder to be clear and concise when speaking about what you believe, but personally listening to the talks this past week and the follow up this week by apologists attempting to clarify (sort of) the view of Scripture that started this whole theological and pastoral pondering, it was a reminder to know what and why we believe.

My faith is in a risen Savior. Who came, suffered, and died as the Word of God declared would take place, and now has risen from the dead 3 days later and ascended to the right hand of the Father as testified to by the apostles. I believe because of the work of Christ in me and I am assured of His love and promises because of His written Word to us, both the Old and the New.

Yes I believe in the Event and in the Words that testify to it. Both before and after its occurrence.

A Caution to All NFL Fans…

NFL

This past Thursday, and really this weekend, was the official beginning of the NFL season for 2015-2016.  Was it just me or did it seem to take a lot longer this year to actually get here?  Any who, I have a caution for all of you NFL fans as the season is now underway.

In Colossians 4:5-6 we read, “Walk is wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

In the original Greek the phrase ‘making the best use of ‘ is only one word and it could be translated as it is here ‘making the best use of’ or ‘to redeem’ or ‘to secure for oneself.’  The meaning is clear: we walk wisely in the eyes of unbelievers when we redeem our time, making the best use of it that we possibly can.  What does it mean to redeem the time?

-To redeem our time is to not waste our time.

-To redeem our time means to seize every chance we’re given to share the gospel with a bold tactfulness.

-To redeem the time means to use all of our time to God’s glory.

-To redeem our time is to fill our lives and our interactions with unbelievers with things of the Kingdom, the gospel, the Scripture rather than things that are trivial.

This means we’re not free to use the time we have to do anything we desire.  We must ask ourselves before doing anything or committing to something, will this activity help me redeem my time, or will this activity make me waste my time?

What does this have to do with the NFL season beginning?  Well, now that it’s football season my household is going to be rooting for the Atlanta Falcons a lot during these next few months.  But, I am convicted by something in Colossians 4:5-6 in regards to my Falcons cheering.  If my neighbors, friends, and family know me just as the guy who cheers for the Falcons and knows nothing of my faith in and love for Christ (the most important thing about me) I’ve done a poor job of redeeming my time with them.  If that’s all they know about me I’ve wasted my time with them, filling our interaction with trivial things, and haven’t made the best use of that time that I could’ve.

The hard lesson for us here is that how we spend our time tells a lot about what we really love.  The harder lesson here is that how we spend our time shows the unbelieving world what we really love.  From watching our lives and hearing our speech, does the unbelieving world around me know only of my devotion for the Falcons, or do they know of my greater and more infinite devotion for Christ and His Kingdom?

Bottom line: the NFL is good…but Jesus is better.

Remember that is the season is now underway.

Must We ‘Earn the Right?’ to Share the Gospel?

It’s a fact that Christians now believe we must earn the right to share the gospel.  Therefore most Christians think of evangelism as starting friendships where the aim is to cultivate trust to the point where a conversation about the gospel would be natural and comfortable.  Is this a Biblical way to think about evangelism?  No, it’s not.

The first time this belief surfaced in black and white was in J.I. Packer’s book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (1961)This book is a foundational document on evangelism, divine sovereignty, and human responsibility.  Besides this one thought, I do think the book is great.  On page 90 Packer says the following:

The right to talk intimately with another person about the Lord Jesus Christ has to be earned, and you earn it by convincing him that you are his friend, and that you really care about him…we must be justified in choosing to talk to them about Christ and in speaking to them about their own spiritual needs…

I know that many who may read this will instantly think that I’m the one who is wrong to say Packer is wrong here, but hear me out.  This line of thinking that we must ‘earn’ the right to share the gospel, and be ‘justified’ in bringing up the gospel with people makes one error.  It makes the error of being more cultural than Biblical.  Do you see Jesus or any of the apostles earning the right to share the gospel in the Bible?  Did Philip earn the right to intrude on the Egyptian eunuchs reading time to ask him “What are you reading?” (Acts 8) Did Stephen earn the right to share with the people before they stoned him? (Acts 7) Did Paul earn the right to preach to those cities?

The answer to this question, from the Bible, is always the same: no.  Everyone who shared the gospel was more concerned with getting the message of Jesus out than the person’s feelings about being offended by the gospel.  If the Jesus or the apostles were concerned with ‘earning’ the right to share the gospel before they shared, I think the growth of the Church would have been drastically reduced.  Perhaps that’s why we decline and downgrade today?  This is where J.I. Packer, and the many who agree with him on this issue, have uncritically accepted a cultural rule over the Bible.

Don’t hear me saying what I’m not.

I am not saying that friendships are a bad way to share the gospel, they are and should be used and sought after diligently.  I am not saying that we ought to just go out banging people in the head with our Bibles, screaming at them to repent.  I am not saying that evangelism should be done without love, it ought to.

I am saying that I think Packer is wrong to say that sharing the gospel with someone has to be earned.  It does not.  Would it be loving to let a blind man keep walking toward to edge of a cliff?  No, it wouldn’t.  No one in their right mind would ever think upon seeing this, “I cannot go up and tell him he’s going in the wrong direction, I don’t want to intrude on his choices, and besides, we don’t even know each other, how could I tell him to change the path he has chosen to walk on?”  That is absurd to the highest degree, and just like that, today too many Christians view evangelism in the same manner.  “We cannot just go up to people and say their wrong, and that they should repent and turn to Jesus, that would be foolish and offensive.”  Have we forgotten that the message of the cross is ‘foolishness to those who are perishing?’ (1 Cor. 1:18)

We must remember that Jesus never earned the right to share Himself with others, and the apostles never earned the right to share the gospel.  Christians must take up the gospel, as it is, and share it with those around them, in love.  We know their end is hell if they do not repent, and that should move us to share with them and plead with them, IN LOVE, to turn to Jesus while there is still time.

May we never withhold sharing the gospel because we think we have not earned the right to do so.

No messenger of a king bearing the king’s message ever waited to earn his right to share the word from his king.  He shared it, because that was his calling.  So too, all Christians are ambassadors for Christ, and it is our joy to share the gospel with as many as we can.  If Christ has given us approval to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, we need not earn another’s approval to share the gospel, the message of the one true King.

This is one place where J.I. Packer has uncritically accepted part of his own culture as Biblical.  Have you done the same?

Evangelism: the Gathering of the Elect

Calvinists are often shunned or frowned upon for placing lots of weight on the doctrines of God’s sovereignty.  One of the critiques is that Calvinistic doctrine does not lead anyone to any kind of evangelistic zeal, or burden to see men come to Christ.  Have you ever heard this kind of thinking?  I have, more often than I’d like to.  I think one reason while so many believe in this ridiculousness is that they are allergic to doctrine.  Upon entering into doctrinal debate with someone, they feel out of place or in over their head which causes a response like, “Is this doing any good?  Why aren’t we sharing the gospel with the lost?”  While some Calvinists certainly do fall into this error and place an unhealthy zeal on doctrinal debate, it is a straw-man argument to lump all Calvinists into the same boat.  I submit that you cannot know what evangelism is or have any hope in sharing the gospel with any pagan, if you’re not a Calvinist.  Here is why:

In Acts 18, Paul is discouraged in Corinth because a group of Jews did not believe his preaching that Jesus was the Messiah sent to save them.  Paul says in 18:6, “Your blood be on your own heads!  I am clean.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”  Afterwards Paul went to Titius Justus’ house and then to Crispus’s house, preaching the same Christ, and was amazed that all the households believed; along with many other Corinthians.  Paul seemed to still be discouraged though, as if the stink of what had happened earlier with the Jews was still heavy on him.  God encourages Paul in 18:9-10, “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.”  It seems like a usual encouragement from the Lord here.  He makes sure to tell Paul that He is with him always and even promises safety, which Paul did not often have.

But what makes this encouragement so astounding is what God ends with, “for I have many people in this city.”  What does that mean?  Not very many people in Corinth had come to faith in Christ yet.  So how could God say that He had many people in this city?  Is God wrong?  Certainly not!  What then is going on?  It’s because there are elect people within the city of Corinth that God has chosen from before the world began to believe, that have not heard the gospel yet.  God encourages Paul to keep on preaching, because of those people.  This is simply the outworking of Romans 10:14-17 in which it is clearly said that no one comes to faith apart from hearing the gospel.  God was encouraging Paul to be the vessel of salvation for these people who God had chosen from before the foundation of the world, that are now residing in Corinth.  Paul was obviously so strengthened by this word from God that he later encourages Timothy to labor and “endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2 Tim. 2:10)  Paul labored and endured all things for the sake of the elect in Corinth, why?  Because God was using him to gather in His elect.  The sovereignty of God in election gave Paul hope that God’s Word, the gospel, would never return void, but always accomplish the purpose for which it is sent. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

What does this have to do with evangelism?  How does the sovereignty of God empower us to bring the gospel to the people we live among?  Because we to, along with Paul, have this same encouragement from God.  No matter where we live, we can truthfully cling to the fact that God has chosen people before the world began in our cities, and God has ordained that the gospel be preached to them so they can believe.  We are invited to be the means that God uses to carry out His eternal purposes.

If I did not believe in God’s sovereignty in salvation, I would be so utterly discouraged every time I share the gospel, because if they do not believe, it is my fault.  I did not make it clear enough, wasn’t as persuasive as I could’ve been, or I didn’t try as hard as I should have.  But this isn’t the case.  Knowing that God has chosen people who will come to faith upon hearing the gospel gives me hope in sharing my faith.  It is as if God were taking us fishing and promising a huge catch.

One other thing though, because we do not know who these elect ones are that God has chosen within our cities, we share with everyone.  When people come to faith, we can know for sure, that it’s because they have been chosen from long ago.

I know of no doctrine that leads to a greater evangelistic zeal than the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election.  Take heart, be encouraged, and share the gospel with all people, for God has many people in your city, and upon hearing the gospel, His elect will come to faith.

Sharing our Faith is For Our Benefit

Philemon 1:6 says, “I pray you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

Explaining what this means is vastly important, not only for the unbeliever who is hearing the gospel, but for the believer who is sharing the gospel.  Read below as Mack Stiles explains this unique evangelistic blessing:

Paul has more than evangelism in mind here, but not less.  Yet Paul’s prayer is for us to be active in sharing our faith.  But notice that the reason is neither the response nor our effectiveness.  Paul is saying something I rarely hear: that sharing our faith is for our benefit, too, so that we might gain a full understanding of the good things we have in Christ.  The Bible says that among all the good reasons to share our faith, one of them is what happens in us.  I think this is important not just for us as individual Christians, but for the community as well.

(Evangelism, Mack Stiles, page 111)

Evangelism is Speaking – It Doesn’t Happen by Osmosis

From Banner of Truth:

Francis of Assisi has little to answer for. Although the quotation of ‘preach the gospel at all times; use words if necessary’ has been attributed to him, the historical truth of the matter is that Francis was a prolific gospel preacher. However, in a contemporary world of increasing political (and seemingly ecclesiastical) correctness, the unspeaking Christian is a welcome guest at the public square party; and as such, a ‘nice’, domesticated Francis sits better within this context than a fiery gospel-preaching Francis.

The cosy alternative to gospel preaching, of course, is to witness in lifestyle only, or as some within the contemporary church are suggesting; to live the ‘way of Jesus’. In this method of being a ‘light to the Gentiles’ (Acts 13:47), when a believer in Jesus Christ lives out in a visible way the inner convictions of the soul, then that is, in itself, contemporary evangelism. There are at least three difficulties with this posture.

First, evangelism is evangel-ism. In other words, the evangel must be an integral part of our evangelism. The evangel, based on the Greek words euaggelizo or euanggelion, is widely translated as either an announcement, or as good news; as a declaration, or as preaching. This then means that evangel-ism is a spoken practice. It is certainly not a ‘silent witness’. However, in our current framework of postmodern subjectivism, somehow certain sections of the Christian church have rewritten the discipline of linguistics to reprove Greek scholars by suggesting that the evangel can be a gagged display. In order to be faithful to the biblical text, this suggestion must be bluntly refuted.

Second, there is a theological record of evangelism in the Gospels and particularly in the book of Acts. Contrary to how some progressive Christian writers and thinkers believe, Jesus of Nazareth was a preacher (Matt. 4:17). Not only was he a preacher, but he was a preacher of repentance: an evangelist. His parting command to the disciples/apostles was for them to become witnesses (transl. ‘martyr’). If Jesus’ followers were to ultimately give their lives for the sake of the gospel – the evangel – it would certainly not be for being ‘good’ men. This drama of how to be a witness is explicitly covered in the missionary endeavours of Paul and his companions as they travel around the Mediterranean. They do not go from town to town with a strategy of silent works; they preach, challenge, cajole, rebuke, bless – all the while utilising their voices in doing so. They gain some converts and upset many others. They are hailed as gods and yet at times left for dead. Paul’s own account of suffering and joy is recorded in 2 Corinthians 11. The events of this dramatic chapter did not merely come about because Paul travelled around carrying out good deeds everywhere he went. Paul was a preacher, like his Saviour before him. The theological record is a standing rebuke to those who suggest that evangelism is best carried out in silence.

Third, practically, evangelism which is only visible does not work. I have been an evangelist for 12 years, working with British Forces in Germany. I have been generous in my time, money, gift-giving, and ministry. However, there are many others within my working context who are also generous in these and many other ways. I believe in the argument of being a visible witness – but this is not evangelism. Evangelism can only take place when we speak. It does not happen by osmosis. The regular soldier I am trying to be a witness to does not see me carrying a heavy box from the post room to help a struggling soldier and automatically equate that to the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I buy a soldier a coffee, that act is not understood as explaining the atonement. If I help train boxers for an upcoming fight, that is not perceived as reflecting the salvific work of the cross. The only way this can be transmitted is by words, either spoken or written. In other words, evangelism is effective only when the evangel is delivered; the good news of Jesus Christ offered as a sacrifice for our sin, and by doing so welcoming sinners to receive his grace and forgiveness via repentance.

The gagging of the Church takes place when we submit to cultural pressures and try to become silent witnesses. This method does not express the evangel; it flies in the face of biblical theology; and, in the end, is neither relevant nor effective. As challenging as it may be – it is certainly not an easy task (it is a lot easier to be a silent worker of good deeds) – let us allow the evangel to become a part of our evangelism; let us continue the theological mandate of speaking to those who do not know Jesus Christ; and let us practically, by visible witness and certainly by spoken or written word, transmit the redemptive story to a world lost in ambiguity, self-fulfilment, and, tragically, in judgment-inducing sin.

Must We “Earn the Right” to Share the Gospel?

It is almost a fact that most Christians now believe that the “right” to share the gospel must be earned.  Therefore most Christians think of evangelism as starting friendships where the aim is to cultivate trust to the point where a conversation about the gospel would be natural and comfortbale.  Is this a Biblical way to think about evangelism?  Yes and no.

This belief, I think, comes from J.I. Packer’s very good book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (1961)This book is a foundational document on evangelism, divine sovereignty, and human responsibility.  On page 90 Packer says the following:

The right to talk intimately with another person about the Lord Jesus Christ has to be earned, and you earn it by convincing him that you are his friend, and that you really care about him…we must be justified in choosing to talk to them about Christ and in speaking to them about their own spiritual needs…

I disagree.

I know that many who may read this will instantly think that I’m the one who is wrong to say Packer is wrong, but hear me out.  This line of thinking that we must ‘earn’ the right to share the gospel, and be ‘justified’ in bringing up the gospel with people makes one error.  It makes the error of being more cultural then Biblical.  Do you see Jesus or any of the apostles earning the right to share the gospel in the Bible?  Did Philip earn the right to intrude on the Egyptian eunuchs reading time to ask him “What are you reading?” (Acts 8) Did Stephen earn the right to share with the people before they stoned him? (Acts 7) Did Paul earn the right to preach to those cities?

The answer to this question, from the Bible, is always no.  Everyone who shared the gospel was more concerned with getting the message of Jesus out than the person’s feelings about being offended by the gospel.  If Jesus or the apostles were concerned with ‘earning’ the right to share the gospel before they shared, I think the growth of the Church would have been drastically stunted.  This is where I think Packer, and the many who agree with him on this issue, have uncritically accepted a cultural rule of polite-ness over the Biblical call to boldly witness.

Do not hear what I am not saying please.

I am not saying that friendships are not a great way to share the gospel, they are and should be used and sought after diligently.  That was how I became a Christian.  I am not saying that we ought to just go out banging people in the head with our Bibles, screaming at them to repent.  I am not saying that evangelism should be done without love, it ought to, or else I fear we may become more evil in the sight of this world than the aroma of life to the lost.

I am saying that I think Packer is wrong to say that sharing the gospel with someone has to be earned.  It does not.  Would it be loving to let a blind man keep walking toward to edge of a cliff?  No, it wouldn’t.  No one in their right mind would ever think upon seeing this, “I cannot go up and tell him he’s going in the wrong direction, I don’t want to intrude on his choices, and besides, we don’t even know each other, how could I tell him to change the path he has chosen to walk on?”  That is absurd to the highest degree, and just like that, today too many Christians view evangelism in the same manner.  It’s understandable why we think like this, but we must give this up.

We must see that Jesus never earned the right to share Himself with others, and the apostles never earned the right to share the gospel.  Christians must take up the gospel, as it is, and share it with those around them, in love.  We know their end is hell if they do not repent, and that should move us to share with them and plead with them in love to turn to Jesus while there is still time.  No messenger of a king bearing the king’s message ever waited to earn his right to share the word from his king.  He shared it, because that was his life’s calling and duty.  So too, all Christians are ambassadors for Christ, and it is our joy to share the gospel with as many as we can.  If Christ has given us approval to go out into the world and make disciples of all nations, we need not earn another’s approval to share the gospel, the message of our king.

We are children of our time, but this is one place where I think Packer has uncritically accepted part of our own culture as Biblical.  Have you done the same?

Election Ought to Produce Evangelism

One major critique I’ve received of reformed theology is that is does not foster a desire to evangelize.  Is this true?  Not at all.  It is a straw man argument people make who are opposed to thinking hard about the deep things of God.

In Acts 18:9 God tells Paul, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent.”  This is understandable taking into account the trip Paul just took.  He is in Corinth after just leaving Athens, and he’s had a rough go the past half-year or so.  Many people have come to Christ, churches are being planted, but Paul is clearly discouraged and afraid to continue speaking because this is precisely how God encourages him to keep going in 18:9.  Why would God have said these things if Paul really wasn’t feeling these things?

Most people stop here and do not continue further, merely stating that God encouraged Paul to keep sharing the gospel, keep preaching, and they move on.  But DO NOT miss 18:10.  In it God continues this encouragement to Paul, “…for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  The proper response to this is “What?”  Not many people have come to faith in Jesus, yet God encourages Paul to keep going spreading the gospel by telling him that He has many in Corinth who are His people?  Either God doesn’t know that lack of success Paul has had, or He has another purpose in this statement than usually taught.

What is happening here?  God is using the doctrine of election to produce evangelism in Paul.

You see it?  Not many have come to faith.  Yet God says He has “many in this city who are His people.”  God is telling Paul that many of the elect sons and daughters of the King of Kings are residing in Corinth, and they have not come to faith yet.  How will they come to faith?  Through the gospel being proclaimed to them in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is why Paul tells young Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:10 that he “endured everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ with eternal glory.”

You see, election ought to produce evangelism in us.  If it doesn’t, we either have a cold heart toward the lost, or do not understand election.

Laborers in the Marketplace (cont…)

We must ignore the world’s opinions and the satanic lies that effect Christians in the marketplace and communicate the gospel by using words! Words are fundamentally necessary in proclaiming the gospel to this world, especially in the business world. Since the time of the prophets in the Old Testament all the way up to Jesus Christ and his disciples, the advancement of the gospel has ridden upon the spoken words of faithful God followers. We must stand in the marketplace speaking in love and joy, yet with eager-boldness to those God brings into our lives. Do not be disobedient to the calling on your life to be a disciple maker for the kingdom of God. Answer the call!

If you are answering the call as a laborer in the marketplace then your task is to continue faithfully making worshiping disciples. Keep on picking up that cross daily for the sake of the gospel. Keep on encouraging the people providentially brought into your life with the message of hope that only comes from the scriptures. And, keep on worshiping our heavenly Father in spirit and in truth. Worship is the chief end of the church! “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” (John Piper)

So join in continuing to disciple worshipers of God and encourage them to do the same as the kingdom advances.

Soli Deo Gloria.

David K. Hayashi,

Laborer for Christ

Laborers in the Marketplace (cont…)

The Broader Solution

It is time that the confessing followers of Jesus Christ engage in the battle against Satan, this evil world, and against our very own flesh. This war does not look like the most current computer generated game with guns, knives, and bombs. No it is spiritual warfare by nature that is not always seen with the naked eye. It is a war that no one single unregenerate soul can sense, and it manifests itself here on planet earth. This war involves more than just simple flesh and blood; it has to do with eternal souls. These souls belong to our co-workers, employees, students, teachers, administrators, and fellow business owners. All of us will one day give an account of our lives the God of the universe, do people in the marketplace know this reality? Can we afford to just coast through work without communicating the gospel to them daily? I heard it once said a long time ago at a church retreat that, “We should always preach the gospel to people, and if necessary use words.” Where I sympathize with the heart behind such a statement, I can’t help but find it in complete contradiction to word of God. I find a complete different message being preached by Paul in his letter to the Romans:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” -Romans 10:14-15

Laborers in the Marketplace

“If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.”

C.S. Lewis from The Weight of Glory

In the world of business the saying goes, “Time is money!”, so in that regard I’ll get straight to the point. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are a laborer for the kingdom of God. The bible is very obvious and direct on this matter in Matthew’s gospel account. In Matt. 9:35-38 we see Jesus addressing the disciples and instructing them in a preamble to the Great Commission that comes later at the end of chapter 28 of Matthew. Some scholars try to exclusively connect people’s call to vocational ministry or the pastorate in Matt. 9:35-38, as if it only pertains to those called into full time ministry service. This conclusion couldn’t be further from the truth as revealed through scripture. This commandment along with the Great Commission is not exclusive to only the clergy. It is commanded to everyone who confesses that Jesus Christ as Lord. We assume that since the laborers are few, we get a free pass when it comes to the work of evangelism. How will they know if no one is willing to share with them?

The Problem

The need for the good news of the gospel to be communicated and displayed in the marketplace is of vital importance in post-modern America. The problem is that the church is failing miserably on this front! According to a 2005 report the actual number of people worshiping in evangelical churches in America each week is a dismal 17.7%[1]. Less than twenty percent are worshiping regularly in the American church. Where are all these people then? They are in the marketplace seven days a week. Why are they not in church? The quick answer is that most of them are just to busy. Busy at work selling retail items, transporting goods from coast to coast, and cooking or serving food to those of us who eat out on the weekends.

The long answer to the question is a theological one: they aren’t in church because they don’t want to be.  Romans 1:19-23, speaks of the natural man and what he decides to do beside worship a Holy God. The people that we encounter Monday through Saturday are just like the people in Romans Chapter 1. Some are very deliberate in their rebellion, but most lost people are just casual in their unbelief. Like sheep without a shepherd, lost people just wander aimlessly and with out purpose through this vapor of a life. Unfortunately, we can’t even bring ourselves to speak encouraging words to these people, let alone share the gospel with them. The only exposure they get of Jesus Christ is from the internet or as a curse word on television. Honestly, I get why people have disregarded the church and what it stands for. Instead of the gospel bringing light to the marketplace through laborers, we hear and read constantly of corruption, scandal, sexual misconduct, corporate greed, and the list goes on. The even more perplexing news is that “Christians” are perpetrating these disgraceful offenses. Contrary to true worshipers of God, we have federal prisoners and repeat felons claiming to be Christians who constantly violate God’s law by breaking the law of man. So before we begin to proudly beat the chest of our recent denominational conquests or seemingly successful evangelical endeavors abroad, don’t forget we are still failing at many aspects of the great commission here at home. A major factor in this problem is that we have elected to forfeit the providential hand of God for a more consumer friendly gospel. We live in a country where wealth, celebrity, selfishness, politics and hedonism have replaced grace, mercy, sovereignty, joy, and love. What can we do as Christian workers in the marketplace do to change this scene in America? Summarily we can start by repenting; followed by biblical Christian action to fight the enemy of the ages and to proclaim the truth of the gospel to our neighbors especially those in the marketplace…

[1] The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion by sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler. 2005. www.churchleaders.com

The Fifth Mark – The Thing You Don’t Want to Do

The fifth mark of all healthy Christian churches is just what the title of this blog says – the thing most of us don’t want to do.  Why?  Some are scared too, others never want to be in a position where they could be embarrassed, while others just don’t know how to do it.  It is also the thing which we will never be able to do once we get to heaven.  What is this one thing?

Evangelism

As conversion, evangelism seems to man a word of antiquity.  A word of archaic origin describing those going around seeking converts to one’s religion.  But I cannot plead with you enough – evangelism is the natural overflow of the heart of a Christian.  A fountain cannot help at times but to overflow, and once Jesus takes up residence in the soul of man He fills us up to the brim and then some until we overflow onto those around us.  Evangelism is something we are all called to in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8.  Evangelism is seen in action throughout the book of Acts.  And if I’m honest with you – if evangelism is not embraced by Christians in our day, how do we think the church will continue to grow?  It is the Great Commission not the great suggestion.  It is a call to be a spreading people, to “go and tell” rather than being a people content to wait for people to “come and see.”  

How does this play out in the life of a Christian?  Stay tuned for the next few days while David Hayashi (one of my best friends) explains this important doctrine and how we ought to apply this in our lives.

FactChecker: Misquoting Francis of Assisi

Have you heard someone say, “Preach the gospel, if necessary use words.”?  I have.  It’s often been attributed to Francis of Assisi.  Is this right or historically accurate?  No. Not only is this wrong attributed to St. Francis, it is completely un-Biblical.  Listen to Glenn Stanton explain:

Note: FactChecker is a new monthly series in which Glenn T. Stanton examines claims, myths, and misunderstandings frequently heard in evangelical circles.

Christians use lots of quotes. Pastors use them in their sermons constantly. Writers illustrate their points with them. Nothing wrong with that. They are quite helpful and encouraging in making a point.

Save when the quote has no basis in fact.

We as evangelicals who claim we are committed to truth are certainly good at spreading falsehood, even if unintentionally. We can do better.

One very clever and popular quote we often knock around among ourselves is . . .

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

It is always attributed to St. Francis of Assisi—founder of the Franciscan Order—and is intended to say that proclaiming the Gospel by example is more virtuous than actually proclaiming with voice. It is a quote that has often rankled me because it seems to create a useless dichotomy between speech and action. Besides, the spirit behind it can be a little arrogant, intimating that those who “practice the Gospel” are more faithful to the faith than those who preach it.

But here’s the fact: Our good Francis never said such a thing.

None of his disciples, early or later biographers have these words coming from his mouth. It doesn’t show up in any of his writings. Not even close really. The closest comes from hisRule of 1221, Chapter XII on how the Franciscans should practice their preaching:

No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister . . . All the Friars . . . should preach by their deeds.

Essentially, make sure your deeds match your words. While there’s a nice and good sentiment in the statement—be sure you live out the grace and truth of the Gospel—the notion as it is typically presented is neither practical, nor faithful to the Gospel of Christ. It does not align with St. Francis’ own practice.

His first biographer, Thomas of Celeno, writing just three years after Francis’ death, quotes him instructing his co-workers in the Gospel thusly,

The preacher must first draw from secret prayers what he will later pour out in holy sermons; he must first grow hot within before he speaks words that are in themselves cold.

Mark Galli, senior managing editor at Christianity Today, wrote a wonderful little book on Francis as well as a clarifying brief article on the myth of this quote. He explains that Francis was quite a preacher, actually more along the lines of Jonathan Edwards or Billy Sunday than most of those who misquote him would like to think. Galli quotes Thomas’ biography,

His words were neither hollow nor ridiculous, but filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, penetrating the marrow of the heart, so that listeners were turned to great amazement.

Our man clearly spent a great deal of time using his words when he preached, “sometimes preaching in up to five villages a day, often outdoors. In the country, Francis often spoke from a bale of straw or a granary doorway. In town, he would climb on a box or up steps in a public building. He preached to . . . any who gathered to hear the strange but fiery little preacher from Assisi.” He was sometimes so animated and passionate in his delivery that “his feet moved as if he were dancing.”

Duane Liftin, president emeritus of Wheaton College, recently addressed the trouble with this preach/practice dichotomy in an important article. Of preaching the Gospel in deed, he explains,

It’s simply impossible to preach the Gospel without words. The Gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the Gospel is inherently verbal behavior.

And the “deed” proclamation of the Gospel is not biblical either. Paul asks the Church at Rome (Romans 10:14):

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?

So next time you hear one of your brothers or sisters in Christ use this quote to encourage or challenge you in your labors for our faith, gently guide them from the land of misinformation and make believe into truth.

Glenn T. Stanton is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of five books on various aspects of the family, including his two most recent, Secure Daughters Confident Sons, How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity (Waterbrook, 2011), and The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage (Moody, 2011).

“O’ That They had Such a Heart in Them!”

In reading recently I came to Deuteronomy 5. Moses here is repeating the Law for Israel, who is just about to cross over into Canaan to possess what God has given them. After repeating the ten commandments, God says the following in 5:29, “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” I have never previously in my reading heard God speak with such an intense passion. (Psalm 81:13 and Isaiah 48:19 show this as well) It is a feast for my soul to hear Him speak in such a manner about His people’s obedience to His commands. It also shows me how much God cares about my own obedience.

(This intense, passionate, zeal for obedience in God’s heart becomes a reality in the new covenant people of God. See Deut. 30:6, and Eph. 6:6b)

Upon reading this statement, I almost instantly thought of an implication of this zeal for preaching to the lost. In sharing the gospel with the lost, I yearn for my language to be like God’s language in Deut. 5:29. I want it to be full of zeal, passion, and intensity, because it would then be a reflection of how God speaks to His people. In preparing for these chats I must labor for language that is worthy of my God! Because if I enter the dialogue to share, and sound disinterested, I convey to people that what I am speaking of does not grip me, and that I do not have a heart that treasures what I am saying! As a pot of boiling water boils up and out over the pot, shooting steam here and there, so must the Christian’s mouth be who has tasted of Christ!

May our word’s echo God’s Words, and not be “lagging in zeal, but boil in the Spirit” (Romans 12:11)